MRH Living Well: Immunizations given at key school years
August 8, 2017
With the new school year approaching, you might be reminded that it's time for immunizations, especially if you have a child entering kindergarten or going into middle school. Of course, babies receive immunizations on a regular basis.
"When children enter kindergarten, they get boosters of immunizations they received when they were babies," said Kevin Monahan, CHA/PA-C, Pediatrics, with Memorial Regional Health Medical Clinic.
Booster shots ensure that immunity to diseases remains high. Between four and six years of age, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children receive booster shots of Dtap, IPV, MMR, Varicella and the annual flu shot. These immunizations protect your child against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, mumps, measles, rubella and chicken pox. Immunizations help keep these diseases under control, which helps to prevent outbreaks among school-aged children.
"These used to be common childhood diseases before immunizations. Now and then you see pertussis, or whooping cough, swing through the schools, and occasionally measles and mumps come on the radar, but not much else," Monahan said.
Babies receive numerous vaccines at birth and in months 1, 2, 6, 12, 15 and 18, including those mentioned above and also HepB, RV, and Hib. These protect against serious diseases, including Hepatitis B, rotavirus, and meningitis.
Many of these vaccinations have been around for decades. The newest for babies was the rotavirus vaccine, introduced in 2006. It helps ward off a disease that causes severe diarrhea and dehydration, sometimes proving fatal for infants.
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"There are good reasons why we vaccinate. We used to see kids regularly with rotavirus, and there was a lot of morbidity that went along with that. Now, thanks to the vaccine, we don't see it that much," Monahan said.
At age 11 or 12, right around middle school, the CDC recommends preteens receive another Tdap booster along with an HPV vaccination for human papillomavirus, which is a two-shot series, or a three-shot series after the age of 15. Finally, a MenACWY shot is recommended to prevent bacterial meningitis, a serious disease that comes on suddenly with symptoms of a fever, headache and stiff neck, and can cause lasting health problems.
Some parents do not feel comfortable with vaccines, but Monahan reassures that they are safe and that reactions are rare. He will, however, help ease parents' minds by spreading out vaccines so several are not given at once, or taking precautions when kids are sick.
"I like to follow the schedule set by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC, but with that said, I would rather have parents get their kids immunized than not at all. I am open to spreading them out, or limiting how many I give in one visit," he said.
He believes it's safe to give vaccines when kids are just a little punky, say with a low-grade fever or a runny nose or cough, but if children come in with a high fever and strong symptoms, he's fine with holding off and having them come back when they feel better.
"I think every single vaccination is vital because it can prevent a serious illness, but I am willing to work with parents and discuss their concerns," Monahan concluded.
Immunizations are often given during annual well child exams, but they can be given outside these exams as well. To make an appointment with the Memorial Regional Health Medical Clinic, call 970-826-2480.